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Capsule Review - Shadowrun

Title Shadowrun
Developer Data East
Year 1993
Platform SNES
Capsule Rating
Capsule Review: Shadowrun starts out very promisingly, with your character's death. While a rockin', sludgy riff plays (turn up your speakers for this one, it's actually one of the best pieces of music to be found in just about any video game), said character suddenly gets to his feet for no evident reason, with no clue as to who or where he is. Thus begins his trek around the city, with nothing but the clothes on his back, and his quest to find out just what happened and who was behind his death and rebirth.

Shadowrun has nothing if not a unique feel - with its dirty cities and trashy-looking sprites, this is probably the grittiest game the Super Nintendo has to offer outside of Doom, and it's got an industrial-type guitar soundtrack to match. With the brilliant exposition, the first half hour or so of the game is rife with suspense, as one stalks the streets under heavy sniper fire. Unfortunately, that half hour is all the game's got, and after it's over, one starts to see the drawbacks, not the least of which is a poor combat system. Basically, one walks until one sees an enemy, one draws one's gun, and one guns it down from where one is standing. This could have been orchestrated much better - for instance, why the devil can't one move while shooting? Furthermore, if one walks until one is in a position to shoot the enemy, that in almost all cases means that the enemy is in a position to shoot back; holstering one's gun and running takes too long and is counterproductive, and thus, there's no strategy involved - one just draws and hopes one have enough HP to survive.

But that's not the game's worst flaw, which is the utter lack of a compelling story after the first half hour. Sure, there's plenty of wandering around and learning about "The Matrix" (which, after the movie, should cause naught but guffaws), but that's not interesting. The protagonist, Jake, has no characterization whatsoever; he's an ugly former hired goon who guns down ugly hired goons. Likewise for the other characters. Sure, there's even an attempt to introduce a "spiritual element," in the person of the Dog character, and various fantasy elements in the persons of all the Orcs and Dwarves, but this works so poorly in the futuristic context of the setting that it's only laughable. The setting, incidentally, only exacerbates all these problems, as everything looks so alike - the same deserted streets, the same ghettoes, the same broken windows and the same overuse of earth tones. In the end, one is liable to just get bored with the creative poverty of this world, and move to better ways to spend one's time.

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